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Tomatoes grown by Ranjit Chitteth with grafts from KAU

Kerala gets the tomato it always wanted

Shree Padre, Thrissur

Published: Feb. 17, 2017
Updated: Jun. 15, 2017

Groups of farmers regularly visit Mala in Thrissur district after learning of this prime vegetable growing belt from the media. They invariably return impressed by the profusion of tomatoes. Apart from tomatoes, fields in some 20 acres are dotted with brinjals and chillies. 

But it is tomatoes that capture their attention. What’s so special about growing tomatoes? It’s unusual in Kerala. Apart from three panchayats in Palakkad, tomato is not cultivated anywhere in the state because farmers are fearful of bacterial wilt, a disease that tomatoes catch easily in coastal states. 

But now there is hope. The Kerala Agricultural University (KAU) in Thrissur has grafted tomato plants resistant to the disease.

Grafting is a method by which two plants are joined to form a single plant. The upper part (scion) of one plant grows on the root system (stock) of a tougher plant.

“KAU is the only university in India that has technologically perfected grafting of vegetable plants and made them commercially available,” says Dr K. Narayanan Kutty, professor, horticulture.

This new development is significant for Kerala. Tomato is the highest consumed fruit in the state. No housewife’s shopping list is complete without a kilo or two of the red fruit. The state imports nearly its entire tomato requirement from Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.

But this is now changing. Last year KAU produced 400,000 grafted vegetable plants. Most were tomatoes followed by brinjals and chillies.

Grafted vegetable plants, unlike fruit grafts, can’t be kept for too long. Their stems are slender and delicate and they have to be transported carefully.

So the grafted vegetable plants aren’t kept in ready for sale condition. Farmers place orders for the grafted plants months in advance. They buy the seeds of their choice and hand them over to KAU which then raises plants and ...

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